Bastille – Rue Crémieux
The Bastille neighborhood is one of Paris’s most dynamic places. It is located in the 12th arrondissement around the Place de la Bastille. It is widely known for its very rich history, its cultural venues, and above all, its bars and pubs that are one of the epicenters of Parisian nightlife.
The Place de la Bastille derives its name from the former very large fortress built under Charles the 5th between 1370 and 1383. Many tourists, when they arrive in Paris, really want to see the Bastille. This is partly due to the fact that in the United States, the 14th of July is also known as “Bastille Day”; so many Americans just picture the Bastille as a typical French fortress or castle. These people are always very disappointed to see that the building has been destroyed long ago.
Nevertheless, the outline of its walls is still marked by a special type of pavement on the western side of the square. This fortress was transformed into a prison by Richelieu, and became a symbol of French monarchy power. The Bastille was taken down by the citizens of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine on the 14th of July 1789 during the French Revolution. It has long been considered as the first event of the French Revolution, and this day became a French national holiday.
Because of this central episode of French History, this square has earned a symbolic aura and has been the theater of many political uprisings.
Interesting and forgotten historical anecdote: In 1808, Napoleon drafted a plan to build a large monument in the shape of an elephant. This monument was supposed to be the western equivalent of the Arc de Triomphe, built in the East of Paris. It was designed to measure 24 meters high and to be made from the Spanish canons’ bronze seized during the war. The architect Jean-Antoine Alavoine got to work in 1833, but only a real size model sculpted by Pierre Charles Bridan was put there. This monument appeared in the very famous novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, before being taken down in 1846.
The large green pillar at the center of the Bastille square is called: “la Colonne de Juillet” (the July pillar in English). It was built between 1835 and 1840 under the supervision of the king Louis-Philippe, to commemorate “les Trois Glorieuses”, the three glorious days of July 1830 that brought the end of Charles the 10th‘s regime and the establishment of the so-called “July Monarchy”, the reign of Louis Philippe the 1st. On the plaque of the pillar, one can read a French inscription celebrating the glory of the French citizens that united to defend public liberties between the 27th and the 29th of July 1830. The column bears the name of the casualties of these revolutionary days. A golden bronze statue named Le Génie de la Liberté can be found at the top. This tower was built at the top of a necropolis, sheltering the bodies of the July 1830 dead.
Another interesting anecdote: In 1871, the soldiers of the Paris commune tried to destroy the Colonne de Juillet that was considered as a symbol of the French ever-lasting monarchy; just like they destroyed the Vendôme Pillar. They tried to burn down the area beneath the tower, and fired more than 30 shells from the Austerlitz Bridge, but the tower remained unharmed.
Today, when visiting the Bastille square, it is easy to spot the Opéra Bastille and its modernist architecture. It was designed by Carlos Ott and inaugurated in 1989, to celebrate the bicentenary anniversary of the French Revolution. This project was led by the famous French president, François Mittérand. It belongs, along with the Opera Garnier, to the Opéra de Paris, and was built partly to relieve the Opéra Garnier and its limited space.
Here are a few places and addresses not to miss in the Bastille area.
Rue de la Roquette
The rue de la Roquette is one of the most ancient streets of the Bastille area. It is located in the 11th arrondissement of Paris and joins the Bastille square and the extremely famous Père-Lachaise cemetery in which one could stop by the graves of Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust and many other French celebrities.
This street derives its name from the ancient name of the area; the name “roquette” (or rochette), would originate from a type of yellowish flower. But apart from these quiet boring anecdotes, this street is above all, one of the most active streets of the Parisian nightlife. As soon as the sun sets, the multiple bars of this street are quickly filled by dozens of Parisian youngsters, enjoying their Thursday night with a beer or two.
It is really a place to be if you want to feel the experience of young people and students in the capital. The bars of this road are all very different; music bars or quiet pub amateurs, you will not be disappointed.
The rue Crémieux is a street located in the 12th arrondissement, still in the Bastille area. It was opened in 1865 by the promoter Millaud, on the former location of the National Arenas. Its name refers to the lawyer and politician Adolphe Crémieux, that was the author of a very famous decree in 1870, granting the French nationality to Algerian Jews (quick historical note: from 1830 to 1962, the country that is now known as Algeria was a French colony).
During the historical flood of January 1810, the waters rose up 1.75m at the 8th number of this street, a commemorative plaque has been set up there.
This nice little street, paved since 1993, is filled with very picturesque “hotels particuliers” with colored facades. A must see in the Bastille area.
With these areas in mind and a bit of French History in your pocket, take a backpack and feel the inherently Parisian energy of the Bastille neighborhood.